Don’t fall for corporate rainbow-washing this June

We’ve seen it before. We’ve seen companies take advantage of events and cultural progressions as a means to make money—your money. During Pride Month, which spans the entire month of June, businesses act no different. It seems as if every single building, every single company and every single store has some sort of rainbow memorabilia thrown on their window right now.


It’s as if on June 1, companies know that they must have something bright and colorful up or else they’re doomed. But what does that really mean? Why just June? Why don’t companies support the LGBTQ+ community all year round?


In this day and age, Pride has become a marketing scheme. It’s become a series of rainbow-washing tactics to get the very people that are oppressed to spend money on things that they are supposed to celebrate.


From throwing a rainbow on a hat to recoloring the logo of an app, companies try many different marketing methods to show that they support the LGBTQ+ community. Truthfully, the act of stamping a rainbow on something and calling it “pride” is not only incredibly lazy, but performative as well. Companies now utilize the entire month of June as a way to get people to spend money on colorful things to make being queer appear trendy.


But being queer isn’t trendy, it’s terrifying. The amount of oppression that queer people face on an everyday basis is astronomical, and yet companies are just going to put a little rainbow on a sticker and call it a day? The ones with the power to make actual change are just going to be performative? That’s not enough.


This superficial Pride marketing is not okay. It devalues all the oppression that the queer community has faced all throughout history and turns it into a profitable margin. It turns June into a showcase of performative activism by companies that actually have the power, influence and money to make changes.


According to a recent Gallup poll, 5.6% of adults in the U.S. identify themselves as LGBT. This makes for a pretty large audience for companies to target—those that are directly oppressed by conservative measures that these said companies fight for. The streets look fun and colorful, but what about the legislation? What about the places where it actually matters?


As of May, a total of 17 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been enacted in the U.S., making 2021 the worst legislative year in history for the community, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Just last week, the Supreme Court gave a ruling in Fulton v. Philadelphia that allows a Catholic foster care organization to exclude LGBTQ+ parents. The problem with queerbaiting, a marketing technique to hint same-sex love without actually showing it, and Pride marketing is that it makes being queer look trendy and fun, and ignores the realities of the tragedies that the LGBTQ+ community faces.


In order for companies to actually be true allies and negate the laziness and performativity of rainbow-washing, they must create opportunities for mutual aid and push for legislation that promotes safety in the LGBTQ+ community. Without doing so, their actions to support Pride are not only false, but inappropriate.


Companies are taking advantage of the very people that they are hurting. They are asking queer people and allies alike to celebrate with their products, while behind closed doors, they’re supporting legislation that does exactly the opposite.


As we reach the end of this month, it is important to remember that modern Pride started off as a riot. There weren’t companies supporting them with rainbow flags or fun-colored socks or—god forbid—whatever Target put in their Pride section. That’s right, a Pride section. It’s become a whole part of the store now.


For those that do identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, the entire month of June is not necessarily a month of celebration, but a month of reflection. There are so many things to celebrate, and it is fantastic that we have come so far, but we also have a long way to go.


Pride is not a marketing ploy. Being queer doesn’t make a person trendy; it’s a part of someone’s identity, the same way that everything else is. Companies are out there taking advantage of that, without actually backing up any of the products that they are selling. This Pride month, instead of buying whatever cheap product you can find, donate money to organizations that directly help the queer community. Pay attention to where you shop and, if you can, choose to support places that are honest about their mission statements. 


For more information, you can visit the National Center for Transgender Equality for a list of mutual aid projects and organizations catered to helping the LGBTQ+ community.